While many midsize sedans offer both a four-cylinder engine and a V-6, the Taurus features only a six-cylinder engine as standard. Unfortunately, the standard Vulcan V-6 engine is an old iron-block soldier that at 153 horsepower is less powerful than most competing fours. Buyers of the top-spec SEL can opt for the more modern Duratec V-6. Although both powerplants share a 3.0-liter displacement, the Duratec's dual-overhead-cam, four-valves-per-cylinder architecture makes 48 more horsepower and 21 more lb-ft of torque. Despite the Duratec's greater output, it delivers the same gas mileage as the Vulcan, making it a tempting choice. Whichever way you go, you'll be shifting a four-speed automatic transmission (many competitors offer more economical five-speeds) that sends power to the front wheels.
Behind the Wheel
The Taurus driving experience is unremarkable, but not offensive. The base engine is somewhat crude-sounding and slow, and while the Duratec V-6 is better, it still doesn't deliver the smoothness or acceleration of the Japanese six-cylinders. The suspension setup is geared toward a traditional American sedan buyer, emphasizing a comfortable ride over responsive handling, and the Taurus' steering is extremely light and languorous. Spirited driving should be limited to those times when you're so late for the rental-car return you risk being charged an extra day. The front disc and rear drum brakes deliver fairly long stopping distances.
Obviously, the Taurus is not the car for the buyer interested in driving a cutting-edge machine or who wants to make an automotive style statement. A Taurus is suited for the person who uses his or her car as simply a way to get from point A to point B and is looking for a low purchase price. The car's traditional-style ride and handling will appeal most to the comfort-oriented driver. The Taurus would also serve well the driver who specifically wants a car that doesn't call attention to itself; get it in municipal white and it's almost invisible. Keep in mind that with the end of its road imminent, the Taurus is likely to suffer from steep depreciation, so it's not a good choice for someone who plans to trade for a new car in a few years. Beware that the more desirable SEL model has a worse Cost of Ownership Value rating than the SE. On the other hand, buyers looking to hold on for the long term should be encouraged by the car's relatively good reliability record.
Low purchase price is offset by a dated design and mechanicals that trail the mainstream competition, including other Fords.